By Micaela Myers
Kicking off a new annual event, the University of Wyoming will welcome back students and invite the entire community for a concert and pep rally Aug. 29, featuring country star Craig Morgan, known for songs including “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club” and “Bonfire.”
The Cowboy Kickoff event will celebrate the start of football season, with the opening game against the Montana Grizzlies Aug. 30 at War Memorial Stadium. It also serves to usher in the fall semester, which begins Sept. 3. “We want to welcome students back for the academic year and also get the community excited about Cowboy sports,” says William Evans, associate director of UW Residence Life. “We want to have a fun, family-oriented event where people can come, connect and have a really great time.”
Between the opening act and Morgan, attendees can look forward to a pep rally featuring Cowboy coaches, the UW Spirit Squad, Pistol Pete and much more. The event was made possible through a partnership with Townsquare Media, which oversees 95.1 Y95 Country, as well as support from UW Athletics, Residence Life and Dining Services, Student Activities Council and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.
Morgan is an Army veteran, and Evans says UW’s Veterans Services Center is reaching out to veterans across the state to invite them to the concert and a meet and greet.
Evans says students and community members can expect Cowboy Kickoff to become a new tradition.
Cowboy Kickoff will take place at UW’s Tailgate Park and will include food and drink vendors, with the gates opening at 6 p.m. and the show starting at 7 p.m. The first 500 students to check into the residence halls who want a ticket can claim one. After that, student tickets remain just $10 ($15 at the gate). Adult tickets for the general public are $25 ($35 at the gate), and tickets for children under 12 are just $8. Tickets can be purchased through the UW Fine Arts Box Office or at the Wyoming Union information desk, and attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or small folding chairs for the show (no outside food or drinks).
Cowboy Kickoff also welcomes incoming students for several days of Cowboy Connect activities, with schedules for new students, transfer and nontraditional students and veterans. Events for new students include a welcome dinner, Outdoor Program signup, movie on the lawn, foam dance party, faculty tips and featured student success speaker Delatorro McNeal. The entire UW community is invited to the president’s barbecue Sept. 3, and Sept. 5 features a casino night in the Wyoming Union.
“Cowboy Connect is a pre-semester transition program,” says April Heaney, director of UW’s LeaRN program and a lecturer for the Department of English. “Unlike orientation, it’s much more focused around faculty connections, peer connections, resources that they may use during their first year, and also interest and involvement. A lot of studies show that that little bit of window before the first day of classes is really key—that’s when students’ minds are starting to form about what college is like, what’s expected of them in college, how they’re going to change or grow. We’re trying to take all those factors into account and really mold that experience for students.
“We really want them to feel like UW is a special place to be,” she continues. Cowboy Connect includes a reception for parents, and students’ families are invited to enjoy Cowboy Kickoff as well.
“When we asked the first-year students at UW’s Freshman Senate, they all said that everyone is anxious and nervous, but these events give you an opportunity to interact with new people,” says Jo Chytka, director of UW’s Center for Advising and Career Services. “They also take a tour of where their classes are the night before classes start, so it’s doing all those things ahead of time.”
Chytka thinks Cowboy Kickoff is a great addition to the regular programing. “It’s about starting to identify with the university, meeting people, having something to do—creating that excitement and camaraderie.”